All fine and good. However, we can't just show Vassilissa's strengths if we're going to have a symbolic transformational tale here. In Jungian style symbolic interp, we view the stepfamily as inner figures of Vassilissa's- and they're not gone yet. They are the inner adversary, Vassilissa's shadow, her own personal judgments and resistances and feelings of lack and misunderstanding and fear and limitation. For the rule is, no problem, nothing to change= no story.
So, though Vassilissa has the doll going for her, which is nice, she's still got a thing or two to learn. One night, while the 3 sisters sat and did stuff with fibers (spin, crochet, knit), the candle gutters. A stepsister gets up and snuffs it out, accidentally on purpose, according to her mother's design. And there is no other source of fire in the house! The snuffing of our inner fires is certainly one of the very common ways that our conditioning, our shoulds and shouldn'ts, our addiction to the physical reality, renders us powerless.
It's typical of alchemical stories with female protagonists to need fire and/or air element educating, since fire and air are archetypally masculine. So here we go! Vassilissa has already got the whole soul connection thing going- that's archetypally feminine, since it's an ability to go inside, to self inquire, and all that good inner experience stuff. But so far she hasn't been able to say no to the meanies.
Saying no, and meaning it, is fire element. Fire is the boundary setting element, that says "don't step over this line, OR ELSE!" Lots of women can't do this because they don't want to be mean. They can't discipline, they can't walk away from cruelty, even, theoretically because they don't want to hurt somebody. They get good at just putting up with users, abusers, and haters, seeing folks as imperfect-but-I-love-you-anyway, etc. And on and on. Of course fire is about much more than boundaries, but that's a start. Generally, without fire we're prone to certain limitations, just as Vassilissa's living a life of extreme limitation.
So guess who's headed out the door to visit the witch in the image above? And not because she volunteered for the job! The inner stepsisters can be very useful in getting us off our asses.
Soon Vassilissa see the first of three horsemen; this first one is all white, including the horse. After he passes, the light of dawn breaks. A few minutes later, she sees a red horseman, and the sun rises. She walks all day, and just as she comes to the witch's house, the black horseman passes, and night falls.
These horsemen were one of my favorite parts of the story when I was a child; they are a perfect opportunity for the illustrator, so lovely, so powerful. Isn't this illustration from the edition I mentioned before glorious?
Horses are, quite simply, POWER. Later in the story, Vassilissa will ask the witch if she knows who these horsemen are, and the answer is "All three are my faithful servants." The point is, that this woman knows much about the powers of personal transformation, and in that, she is master of the night (nigredo), of the dawn (albedo), and of the sun (rubedo). That knowledge is power (horses).
In addition to the knowledge of human transformation, the traditional ways of learning magic include more than book learning. There is much power that can be experienced merely by being alone in the night, under the moon and stars, by watching the sun rise or set, by experiencing dawn and its new beginnings and gentleness and otherworldliness. The embodied experience of these phenomena help us recognize and understand our inner workings. That these are all men explains to us that Vassilissa is working expressly with her masculine side, fire being archetypally masculine.
Well I have decided to keep these short, so next will be the meeting between Vassilissa and her teacher! Stay tuned!
Of course we call the witch Baba Yaga, if we wish, the Slavic wise and outrageous "Old Woman" who lives in a chicken-legged house. Moussorgsky wrote a piece about a painting of her home, I guess, part of his Pictures at an Exhibition.